ORONO – Sometimes you just need a break from it all.

The University of Maine men’s hockey team has a rare weekend off, and the timing works well.

The Black Bears are coming off two losses at Boston College and are working through adversity with the temporary loss of two key components on defense. Senior Jeff Dimmen (left ankle) and junior Will O’Neill (lower-body injury) are expected to be out until after Christmas.

“(The break) is good for us because of the injuries we have,” defenseman Mike Banwell said. “It’s a good time to have a break, if we’re going to have one.

We don’t have too many weekends off, so it’s nice to have the guys step back a little bit. Guys will go and spend some time with their families, and guys can go and rest up.”

In years past, Maine (6-3-3, 4-2-1 Hockey East) typically has played the weekend after Thanksgiving. Last year it played the day after the holiday at UMass-Lowell, then took on St. Lawrence in Portland.

Not this year. The team skated Wednesday at Sawyer Arena in Bangor, then split up for four days off from school and hockey. Maine resumes its schedule Friday with the opener of a two-game series at Providence.

“We need a break, and especially after two losses it’s good to take some time off and forget about it and put it behind you,” goalie Shawn Sirman said.

The Black Bears opened the season 1-1-2, with their only loss coming Oct. 15, a 3-2 decision at Michigan State. The following weekend, Maine swept then-No. 2 North Dakota at Alfond Arena, kicking off a six-game unbeaten stretch. The Black Bears reached No. 3 in the USCHO.com top-20 poll and the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine top-15 poll.

Maine faced its first snag Nov. 6 in a 2-2 tie at Boston University when O’Neill was injured on his second shift. After last weekend’s sweep by Boston College, Maine fell to No. 10 in both polls and has to make more adjustments on defense because of the loss of Dimmen, who reinjured his left ankle in the first Boston College game.

“We had a few guys go down and our team had to rally together,” Banwell said. “We had to find ways to somewhat substitute for (Dimmen and O’Neill). Those guys are great overall (defensemen) but better offensive guys. That’s a gap we need to fill.”

Freshman defenseman Brice O’Connor sees this as a learning experience for the team.

“It’s a big test for us and that’s how we get through it,” he said. “It’s a challenge. It’s an opportunity for us, to really see what we can do without those guys. That’s what Coach (Tim Whitehead) was saying, that it’s a big opportunity for us to really make us stronger.”

But, O’Connor said, a weekend off also means another opportunity for his team.

“It’s a time to recover and regroup, and to get a focused attitude for the weekend coming up,” he said.

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at:

[email protected]